Skip to main content

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Atunnise v. Mukasey that the U.S. government erred in applying rules that determine whether an immigrant who previously received an order of removal can obtain a waiver to reenter the United States. The court said this case "highlights the obstacles that foreigners face in navigating arcane procedures intended to reunite them with their American-citizen spouses in the United States."

Christiana Atunnise applied for a visa in 2006 to join her husband in the United States. But when she arrived at O'Hare International Airport, immigration authorities denied her entry and detained her at McHenry County Jail in Illinois. Judge Ilana Rovner, writing for a three-judge panel, summarizes Ms. Atunnise's predicament:

The consular officer [in Nigeria] gave her a visa, but because of the manner in which Atunnise answered one of the questions on the visa application [related to a removal order she had obtained five years earlier when she first attempted to come to the United States], she was not told that consular officers are not supposed to give someone in her position a visa without a waiver of inadmissibility. Atunnise maintains that she was confused by the application, which we agree would confuse anyone. When Atunnise took her visa and flew to the United States with her daughter in April 2006, an immigration officer at O'Hare International Airport realized that she also needed, but did not have, a waiver of inadmissibility.

"It seems that Atunnise's ‘no' answer to one confusing bulletpoint [on her visa application] is the reason she has been detained in a cell for two years," Rovner writes.

Ms. Attunise was represented by Hanna Stotland and Barry Sullivan of Jenner & Block LLP, and by Chuck Roth and Claudia Valenzuela of the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Read the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, 523 F.3d 830 (7th Cir. 2008).

Read the opening brief, government response, and reply brief.

Read the National Immigrant Justice Center litigation blog entry on this case.